SpaceX’s Starship survives its return to Earth, making a demo landing on its fourth test

SpaceX’s massive Starship rocket survived re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere on Thursday and splashed down in the Indian Ocean as planned on its fourth test mission after launching from south Texas.

The two-stage spacecraft, which consisted of the Starship cruise ship mounted atop its towering super-heavy booster, broke up during a last-ditch attempt in March to survive atmospheric re-entry The earth is hot.

But the craft survived its reentry on Thursday, a SpaceX livestream showed.

“Despite the loss of many bricks and a damaged flap, the Starship landed smoothly in the ocean!” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk posted on social media after the accident.

The Starship, stacked on its Super Heavy booster, blasted off Thursday morning from the company’s Starbase launch site near Boca Chica Village on the Texas Gulf Coast. This is the latest test mission in Elon Musk’s company’s failed experimental rocket development campaign.

The rocket system’s first stage, called Super Heavy, separated from the Starship’s upper stage three minutes after flying dozens of miles above the ground, sending the Starship on its way toward space.

The Super Heavy returned to land and appeared to make a soft landing in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, the Starship blew up its own engines to begin its round-the-world journey toward the Indian Ocean, a trip lasting about 70 minutes.

There, it began a free fall back to Earth, where it endured the intense heat of atmospheric re-entry – the crucial moment that caused it to fail in March.

Designed to be cheaper and more powerful than SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, Starship – nearly 400 feet (122 meters) tall – represents the future of the company’s dominant satellite and astronaut launch business. It will be used by NASA over the next few years to send the first astronauts to the moon since 1972.

Each Starship rocket reached its test target farther than previous tests before failing, either by exploding or disintegrating in the atmosphere.

The rocket’s first launch in April 2023 exploded minutes after liftoff about 25 miles (40 kilometers) above the ground. On a subsequent attempt in November, Starship reached space for the first time but exploded shortly afterward.

During its most recent flight in March, the Starship went much farther and broke up in Earth’s atmosphere as it tried to reenter from space halfway around the world.

Thursday’s rocket flight was a repeat of the previous test but with the aim of going further.

The rocket is covered with hundreds of small black bricks designed to protect against the extremely high temperatures encountered when hurtling through Earth’s atmosphere at supersonic speeds.

“The main goal of this mission is to go deeper into the atmosphere during reentry, ideally through heating,” Musk, CEO of SpaceX, wrote on social media on Saturday. maximum”.

Much is riding on SpaceX’s development of Starship, which is being relied on by NASA as it aims to send astronauts to the moon by 2026 in competition with China, which plans to send astronauts from we get there in 2030. China has made some recent progress in its lunar program. , including a second landing on the far side of the moon during a sample recovery mission.

Although Starship’s development appears to be faster than other rocket programs, it is still slower than Musk originally envisioned. A Japanese billionaire who initially paid to fly Starship around the moon canceled his flight last week, citing schedule uncertainty.

And Musk’s push to quickly build Starship has endangered SpaceX workers in Texas and California, a Reuters investigation found.


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